Why do your customers abandon their online shopping carts? (And what can you do to reduce it)

Discover the benefits of writing an effective abandoned cart email sequence

Sad shopping cart full of abandoned products
Designed by Iustina Ikert (Canva)


One of the most comfortable ways of shopping these days (for anything, really) is online shopping. Everything is just one click away – all you have to do is enable the one click purchase option, if available, and the products you added to your shopping cart will be right at your doorstep in no time. Easily adding your products to the cart, quick buy option, intuitive editing of the shopping cart and the possibility to save your cart for later are just a few aspects that make online shopping our first option for many needs in our lives. However, even with all the benefits of an intuitive and quick online buying process, purchases are not always completed. The shopping cart is often abandoned and the purchasing cycle is interrupted. In this article I will take a closer look at shopping cart abandonment, the reasons behind it and what you can actively do as an ecommerce business to reduce cart abandonment. Let’s bring back your potential customers!



What is shopping cart abandonment?

We talk about shopping cart abandonment when an online shopper starts the checkout process of an order but doesn’t go all through the checkout steps. The order is abandoned at some point in the checkout process and the shopping cart itself and the products in the order are considered abandoned. There are many reasons why this can happen and I will go through them below but for now let’s just take a look at why shopping cart abandonment is such an important metric for online shops and how can you calculate it. And while we’re at it, taking a look at some stats will definitely help. So, let’s jump to the good stuff.

Shopping cart abandonment is definitely a metric that gets a lot of attention from ecommerce shops and this is why: simply put, businesses lose money. Every abandoned shopping cart is a lost increase in revenue. This is happening all over the world with all online businesses. Let’s take a look at what Salecycle reveals in their 2021 Ecommerce Stats Trends Report about shopping cart abandonment per region:

If you are wondering how shopping cart abandonment is calculated, well, it’s quite simple. We divide the total number of completed transactions to the total number of initiated transactions. Then subtract it from 1 and multiply by 100 to get the percentage.  Here’s a very intuitive graph from Bolt, describing the calculation method of the cart abandonment rate:

calculate cart abandonment rate
Source: Bolt, The Ultimate Cart Abandonment Guide

Why is this important to know? Because this metric can indicate that your online shoppers didn’t have such a good user experience in the checkout process or that something made them stop/postpone completing the order. Finding the reasons behind cart abandonment is not an easy process but it’s a necessary journey to reduce your cart abandonment rate.


Why do people abandon their online shopping carts?

Like many of us, I have left a fair share of shopping carts behind regardless of how user-friendly the shopping process was. I am a slow shopper – and maybe you are too. I take my time choosing my products and researching what I want to buy. Isn’t it frustrating when you add some products to your cart but you want to get back to it later to finish the order and the cart is not there anymore? And you have to do all of it all over again? One of the things I appreciate most in an online shop is the possibility to save my shopping cart because I will certainly come back to it and add/remove products and complete the order. If I don’t have this option, I tend not to use that particular online shop.

There are, of course, many reasons behind why people abandon their shopping carts:

  • overall price
  • extra/hidden fees
  • delivery fees
  • delivery time
  • account required (no guest-buy option)
  • long checkout process
  • untrustworthy website


According to the research of Baymard Institute, the top two reasons for shopping cart abandonment are extra/hidden costs for shipping, tax, fees, and the obligation to create an account to be able to complete an order. Taking a look at the stats below you can notice other reasons for shopping cart abandonment that are not far behind the first two:


What is an abandoned cart email?

So, what can you do as an ecommerce business to reduce your shopping cart abandonment? Optimizing your checkout process, landing pages, product descriptions are only a few directions that you could take to reduce your shopping cart abandonment rate. Another approach is building an abandoned cart email sequence.

So, what exactly is an abandoned cart sequence? An abandoned cart sequence is a series of emails sent out at more or less specific time intervals (I’ll get into that in a couple of seconds) that focuses on helping, informing, and reassuring potential online customers in regards to an incomplete online order. This sequence is meant to engage with your customers and bring them back to your website, to their shopping cart to complete the order in the smoothest, swiftest way possible. This might sound complicated and you might feel discouraged by all these things a cart sequence needs to do. But let me tell you this, once you have the email structure pinned down it will get much easier. Also, calculating your cart abandonment rate will certainly give you the right nudge to implement such an email sequence😊

However, not many ecommerce businesses engage in creating such an email sequence. According to a Hubspot blog post by Morgan Jacobsen, as little as 19% of the top 1000 ecommerce companies engage in any type of abandoned cart emails. This is astonishing considering the impact such a sequence can have on your sales as a business.


Do you really need a cart abandonment sequence?

Yes! You do. And here is why. Sending helpful cart reminders to your potential buyers will keep fueling your engagement with your wanna-be customers. It’s your opportunity to reassure them that their shopping carts will be waiting for them when they are ready to complete the order.

Now, you might be wondering, how many online shoppers abandon their shopping carts monthly?

According to Shopify, the Baymard Institute identified the cart abandonment rate by device and found a frightening 81% abandonment rate for tablet users.

Going back to their 2021 Ecommerce Stats Trends Report, Salecycle mentions that overall, 81.08% of website users abandoned their shopping carts in different sectors such as retail, fashion, utilities and travel. What is even more interesting is that cart abandonment trends by the day of the month reveal an increasing cart abandonment rate up to the 26th of every month (most likely payday) and then a decrease of this rate as monthly incomes stabilize.

Knowing all this, sending out abandoned cart emails at the right time is crucial in the process of bringing your potential customers back to your online shop.

Timing is everything.

How many times have you received a cart reminder just seconds after closing the browser on your incomplete shopping cart? Countless times. One minute later, bam, I get an email reminding me that I left something in the shopping cart or showing me how sad my shopping got in as quickly as one minute.


Perfect timing is turning limitations into new, creative possibilities – Amy Larson


 And while it’s good practice to act fast and send your first reminder within the hour, some ecommerce businesses just take this to the extreme and send off their emails as soon as the shoppers navigated away from their page or closed the browser. More often than not, this creates the exact opposite effect – shoppers are going to be irritated as it creates a sense of urgency and feels like it’s rushing them into shopping. I certainly don’t appreciate that and probably neither do you. So when should you send the first abandoned cart email? And what should it look like?

Your first abandoned cart email should be an offer to help your potential customers, an opportunity to reach out and connect, and eventually, bring them back to their shopping cart to complete their order without being salesy. There are many reasons why a customer might abandon their cart: maybe they had technical issues, the checkout was too complicated, they’re not ready to take the leap, or maybe just want to continue their shopping later. Through analytics and web tracking solutions you can understand the reasons and address them with a personalized approach. The best approach is to be helpful and build your email in the same tone. Best practices note that the first email is more efficient if sent within the hour of the attempted purchase. However, don’t hurry and send off the email one minute later as it might have a boomerang effect.

Already thinking to send another reminder email? Give a bit of space to your potential customers. You’ve just sent one reminder email, the helpful one, and the next one should be at least 24h later having a more informative structure and tone than the first one.

Keen on sending another reminder? You can, of course. If you really want to. Your third email could find its way to your customers’ inbox at least 48h later and this time around it’s incentive time! Throw in a discount code, a coupon, free delivery, or double the Club points – now it’s the perfect moment for any of these.

Let’s take a look at the efficiency of some of these emails in the sequence and you can definitely decide how extended your email sequence should be to better suit your business needs. In their Ecommerce Industry Benchmark Report, Klaviyo presents a brilliant interactive graph on the performance by a number of emails in an abandoned cart sequence. I’ll leave the link under the graph image so you can access the graph and play with the functions.

abandoned cart email sequence performance by number of emails
Source: Klaviyo, Ecommerce Industry Benchmark Report

Even though the average open and click rates are decreasing after the first email, stopping after two or even worse, after one email would mean missing out on the opportunity to increase your sales.



Going through all these stats can certainly be alarming as the cart abandonment rate is surprisingly high and the number of ecommerce businesses implementing an abandoned cart email sequence is low. It’s definitely a lot of work behind creating and implementing such a sequence but as you saw the benefits are there, ready for your online shop to reach out and bring those potential customers back in.


Out of passion for words and languages... You can find me translating, proofreading or copywriting marketing and communication materials for fast-growing ecomm businesses in English, French, Italian and Romanian. When not in front of my computer I'm following my passion for good books or my affinity for painting.